By Mikael Krummel

Little question which critters top the list of favorite pets across Lane County. There’s clearly something about furry mammals that drives the continued popularity of dogs and cats. So what about reptiles? They’re hardly warm and cuddly. Nonetheless, there’s been a recent upsurge of local interest in pet reptiles, especially snakes and lizards.

One guy in the know is Jim Dezotell, owner of three retail pet shops in Eugene and Springfield. Dezotell has sold pet food and supplies alongside dogs, cats, and birds for years. Recently he’s also adopted a greater focus on reptile breeding and sales. The shift reflects expanding local interest in reptile pets. Reptile breeding can be consuming. It can also be quite rewarding.

Take, for example, the popular pet lizard species known as the bearded dragon, which Dezotell sells in his shops. “They’re the puppy dogs of the reptile world,” he says. “They’re very chill. Pop them on your chest like a broach. They love to be with people.”

Turtles and tortoises have long been popular pets. But now lizards share a bright spotlight on reptile pets that includes many smaller lizard species like skinks, chameleons, and favored gecko breeds like leopards and cresteds. Snakes are also driving the reptile pet boom: ball pythons, corn snakes, boa constrictors, milk snakes . . . In general, reptile pets offer mellow temperaments and simple caretaking. They’re also a relatively low expense for owners, plus they offer potential for big profits for their breeders.

It often comes down to the breeding phenomenon known as morphing. Reptile coloration and design patterns typically drive reptile market prices. The more unusual a reptile’s appearance, the higher its price. For example, where commonplace colors on a snake might price a snake at a few hundred dollars, rare colorations sometimes fetch thousands. Morphing is essentially a gambler’s game of predicting offspring coloration based on the science of genetic odds reflecting the parent combo.

And that’s a big piece of why so many local reptile pet fans are turning attention to the payoffs of home breeding. Which in turn, is helping expand local interest in reptile pets.

Photo by Mikael Krummel